Ranna, along with Pampa and Ponna, was one of the three literary geniuses of Kannada literature. He was born in 949 CE at Muduvolalu (Mudhol) in the Bagalkot District
. His ancestors were members of the Vaishya
caste, from Balegara community (bangle sellers) of Jains. Ranna originally used to sell bangles. Ranna was inclined towards education, and took to learning leaving the family work to his brothers. Very soon he became a master of Sanskrit literature
, Prakrit literature
and Kannada literature. Gradually, Ranna made his way to the imperial court of Tailpa (973-997 A.D) and his son Sathyashraya (997-1009 A.D).
Literary Works of Ranna
Ranna wrote most of his works on a Jain theme. His most well-known works have been Parashuramacharitha, Ajitha Purana and Sahasa Bhima Vijaya or Gadaa Yudda. The first two are not yet come to light and the fame of Ranna as a poet rests on the other two, which are now extant. A fragment of a lexical work called Ranna-Kanda is also available.
The work the `Ajitha Purana`, completed in 993 AD, was about the traditional history of the second Jain Tirthankara. This is one of the shortest Jaina Puranas in the Kannada language. It recounts the stories of only two previous births of the Jina. It is about a prince who realizes how transitory life is by merely holding a few grey hairs to his cheek. He consequently renounces his life and goes on to meditate and live the life of an ascetic. He is reborn in the next life as the saint Ajithanatha. This is the first part of the work and shows the great talents of Ranna as a poet. The next part is the story of Sagara, the second Chakravarti of Jainism
. Though initially reluctant to give up worldly pleasures, he eventually gave in after much persuasion by Maniketu and the death of his 60,000 sons when he realized his helplessness in the face of death. He finally took to a life of penance and found release.
The famous work, `Sahasra-Bhima-Vijayam` was written by Ranna. It was better known as Gada Yuddha around 1000 A.D, which was based on the Mahabharata
of Vyasa. It is one of his greatest works which has secured him a permanent place in the history of Kannada literature. It is the story of the final fight between Bhima
towards the evening of the Kurukshetra
war. The usual trend of identifying one`s patron with the hero of an epic is followed here by him too, when he sees his patron Iriva Bedanga Satyasharya as Bhima, the hero of the poem. Ranna has built up his work of ten chapters on the basis of the thirteenth chapter of the Pampa Bharatha. Ranna`s mind was essentially dramatic in quality, vigorous action; powerful dialogue, living characterization and emotional fire are some of its elements. The Gada-Yuddha contains with in itself a complete and most powerful drama. The poet mainly intended to glorify Bhima-Satyashraya-and he succeeded in it. He also managed to take the character of `Duryodhana`, the tragic hero to a great height without lowering the status of `Bhima`, one of the strongest `Pandava Putra`.
Ranna later became a poet in the court of Chakravarthi Tailapa II and also continued during the rule of his successor Satyasraya in the Western Chalukya court. He was also rewarded with the title of `Kavi Chakravarti`, which means `Emperor of Poets`. Ranna`s literature writings were all in `Halegannada`, which is an older version of Kannada language. Ranna wrote the first extant lexicon in Kannada named Ranna Kanda.